Supreme Court rejects Essar’s plea against Hazira port expansion


New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an Essar Group company’s petition challenging a Gujarat government move to expand the limits of the Hazira port.

Dismissing Essar Bulk Terminal Ltd’s (EBTL) appeal, a bench headed by justice Rohinton F. Nariman upheld the Gujarat government’s 2016 notification in this respect. The notification was not contrary to public interest, it ruled.

In an 18 January, 2016 notification issued under the Indian Ports Act, 1908, the Gujarat government allowed Hazira Port Pvt. Ltd (HPPL) and Adani Hazira Port Pvt. Ltd (AHPL) to expand their port limits in Hazira. Essar said such a move would infringe on the limits of its Magdalla port and encroach upon the land it reclaimed. This would allow Adani to usurp developmental works done by Essar, it claimed.

In May, EBTL moved the Gujarat high court seeking quashing of the notification. When the high court rejected the petition, Essar moved the Supreme Court.

“We are not satisfied that the notification is ultra vires Section 5 of the Indian Ports Act, 1908. We have already seen that the appellants (EBTL) have no ‘right’ to private property in view of the fact that the ownership of the captive jetty that has been constructed and the ownership of reclaimed land is with the Gujarat Maritime Board/state government,” the 45-page judgment stated.

EBTL argued that it had spent huge amounts of money on the land it reclaimed, which would be affected by the expansion.

Mihir Joshi, senior counsel for EBTL told the court that it had been granted clearance for land reclamation by the environment ministry on 6 May 2014, and that an expanded port limit would eat up 140 hectares of reclaimed land. Joshi also said that the notification had failed to consider the element of public interest.

This was opposed by senior advocate Harish Salve, counsel for the Gujarat government, who submitted that Essar’s demands for reclaimed land had nothing to do with the expansion of the limits of Hazira port as they operated in two completely different spheres.